No. 6 softball heads to Stillwater for last regular conference series


Shweta Gulati

Senior Kim Bruins, who has been an important part of Texas' pitching staff and lineup this season, is looking to help the Longhorns reach the Women's College World Series for the first time since 2006.

Jori Epstein

Boasting a record of 42-6, 12-2, No. 6 Texas hits Stillwater this weekend for a battle of the oranges. Burnt or not, the Longhorns have the advantage over the Cowgirls if rankings, winning percentage or conference standings are any indicator.

But that was also the case when the Longhorns faced Oklahoma State last season. At 35-6, 9-4, 2012’s No. 5/6 Texas faced a 22-16, 5-6 opponent in Oklahoma State. And yet the Longhorns slipped after capturing a 3-2 win Friday, with an embarrassing shutout at home that nearly lost them the series. The Longhorns came through with the rubber match, but head coach Connie Clark was disappointed.

“We talked a little about showing more excitement for the game,” Clark said after last year’s series. “They have aspirations to keep momentum on their sides and to do that, you have to have the action to show that. I just didn’t see that yesterday, so we talked long and hard about the consistency.”

As one of just four teams to have both a slugging percentage of .485 or more and an ERA of 1.65 or better, Texas brings that consistency this year. The team is 8-0 on the road and a series sweep would match the program record for single-season road victories. Before this season, the Longhorns never had fewer than three road losses during a campaign.

“Everyone says going on the road is really hard, but I think it’s almost more fun,” freshman pinch runner Rachel Scott said. “You don’t have any distractions like you sometimes do at home. It’s all about softball and I like the sense of team bonding.”

Scott uses the traveling experiences to excel on the field. Most recently, she scored in all three matchups against Texas Tech last weekend — bringing her season total to nine runs though she has just six official at-bats.

“We just need to take it one pitch, play and game at a time,” Scott said. “We need to focus on what we have left and not get ahead of ourselves.”

Texas will close regular season with a final match against Baylor at home May 12. The senior day game is the teams’ third matchup of the season, after Texas trumped the Bears on both turfs in March. Though the 5-1 home match March 24 went smoothly, Texas struggled in Waco on March 23 through eight scoreless innings against Baylor’s ace Whitney Canion. Finally, Taylor Thom and Kim Bruins connected on bases-loaded plays to aid Luna’s 14 strikeouts in the win.

“[Canion] is a great pitcher,” Bruins said after the match. “You have to be really strong mentally and have confidence in yourself knowing that you can succeed. I was just thinking stay calm, keep your hands up and try to hit something hard somewhere.”   

Texas opens in Stillwater Friday at 7 p.m.